NEW YORK — Supima is taking its annual student design competition to more schools, a new venue and a new continent.
Going into it’s eighth year, the contest has added its seventh school — Pratt Institute — to its roster of schools with fashion design programs whose students have a chance to participate in the program. Finalists from each school are supported to create capsule collections, which are then evaluated and presented on the runway during New York Fashion Week.
This year, fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra will be serving as a mentor to the seven finalists, augmenting the mentors that have always been provided by each school, noted Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotion for Supima.
“Bibhu will be providing feedback and insight throughout the process to this young group of emerging talents, adding to the experience of our finalists,” Midyette said. “We’re excited to have him participate as the first designer mentor.”
The Supima show will be moving with the fashion week crowd to Skylight Clarkson Sq’s Gallery space with a noon show on Sept. 10.
Last year, the competition went national when it added Academy of Art University in San Francisco and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Pratt becomes the second school from New York, joining the Fashion Institute of Technology. Rounding out the field are students from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio; the Rhode Island School of Design and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The finalists were each asked a series of questions as part of their competition portfolio, including “How important has the fabric choice of your designs been?”
Here’s the list of the finalists and some of what they said:
• Karen Dang, Academy of Art University, 22, bachelor of fine arts in fashion design. “Fabrics are very important to me, not just for aesthetic purposes, but also for function, quality and comfort.”
• Leetal Platt, FIDM, 29, advanced associates degree in fashion design. “I try to push conventional materials and techniques in unconventional ways to create pieces that really make you stop and look.”
• Nnamdi Agum, 26, FIT, bachelor of fine arts in fashion design. “Fabric is everything. It is the first base identification of quality, as well as functionality of the garment.”
• Paige Meacham, 22, Kent State, bachelor of arts in fashion design. “I think that you can make fabric even more beautiful by adding your own twist to the fabrics.”
• Lauren Nahigian, 22, Pratt Institute, bachelor of fine arts in fashion design. “[Fabric] is so crucial to how I design and I definitely put it before season, silhouette or anything else for that matter.”
• Julia Han, 22, RISD, bachelor of fine arts in apparel design. “Fabric and material exploration make up the core of my designs…I try to push conventional materials and techniques in unconventional ways.”
• Kate McKenna-Schliep, 24, SCAD, bachelors of fine arts in fashion. “You could illustrate the most beautiful garment, but if the fabric does not support the silhouette, you lose the design.”
“I am humbled by being the mentor to these seven student designers for Supima design contest,” Mohapatra said. “To be able to share my knowledge and expertise is very gratifying, and to have them absorb the knowledge I have gained through my journey is an unexplainable feeling. Through this competition, we are helping to shape and mold the designers of the future and to say that I can be apart of that is truly an honor in itself.”
Midyette noted that Supima’s brand partners — Brooks Brothers, AG Jeans and Uniqlo — provide the fabric to the students, which he said, “Showcases the high-quality fabrics our partners are using, pushes the fabrics to their limits and ends up inspiring the broader industry.”
He said the show is important to Supima, which designates an elite variety of pima cotton grown only in California and the Southwestern U.S., adding, “Each year we’re getting a higher caliber of students and it’s become more competitive within the schools.”
The Supima competition is also headed to Paris for the first time on Oct. 2 during fashion week there for a presentation at the American Ambassador’s residence.